The Secret Ingredient (Chamomile) Part II: Chamomile Pork Chops with Lemon

RECIPE: Chamomile Pork Chops with Lemon
Chamomile Pork Chops with Lemon

Chamomile Pork Chops with Lemon

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

I’ve had my nose in a book for the last week studying for a looming macroeconomics exam, and I finally found out something interesting. Do you know who said “There’s no such thing as a free lunch?” Milton Friedman.

But I have a hard time believing that Milton Friedman knew anything particularly meaningful about lunch.I think with a bit of creativity, you can get something for (almost) nothing. Take this recipe, for instance. I bought a 1 1/2-pound pack of lean, very thinly sliced pork loin chops for just a couple of dollars. Everything else, flour, salt, pepper, lemon, olive oil, I had at home. I saw a pack of dried chamomile flowers for a matter of cents, threw them in the basket, and went to pay.

For just a couple of dollars, I was able to make something simple and hearty, but still exciting and different. The chamomile that’s worked into the flour atomizes its signature mild summertime scent as it hits the sizzling pan, and the elusive floral taste peeks out from the plate. It’s subtle, but unique, and a simple way to tuck a touch of thought into the everyday fast and furious parade of meals. I serve this with bright lemon wedges, and a simple tossed salad of pea shoots and green herbs, tossed with shallots, sea salt, olive oil, and a spritz of citrus. And even if I paid for my pork chops, I still feel like a got that injection of restaurant frivolity for free.

Chamomile Pork Chops with Lemon
Chamomile Pork Chops with LemonIngredients
  • 3/4 lb. thin-cut pork chops
  • 2 tablespoons dried chamomile flowers, ground
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Light olive oil for frying
  • Salt and pepper

Procedure

Season the pork chops with salt and pepper.

Use a clean coffee grinder to make chamomile powder of the dry flowers.  Then, mix it into the flour.

Dredge the pork chops in the flour-chamomile mixture.

To a sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat, add enough light-tasting olive oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan.  Sear the dredged, thin pork chops until golden on both sides, about 4 minutes total.  You do want to make sure you cook the pork all the way through.

Serve on a plate with lemon wedges, and a fresh salad of green shoots tossed with olive oil, sea salt, and a splash of lemon juice of verjus.

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French in a Flash: Dijon Chicken

RECIPE: Dijon Chicken
Dijon Chicken

Dijon Chicken

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

There is a saying in our house: “Il n’y a que Maille qui m’aille.”(Loose translation: “Only Maille works for me!”) It’s a slogan of the venerable French mustard house Maille that my stepfather mutters at every meal on his journey from table to fridge, right between where he picks up his first bite and where he realizes there’s no mustard. He slathers it on bread, on pasta, on fish, on meat. He is indiscriminate, and I have come to learn that the American stereotype of putting ketchup on escargot can be just as frankly reversed, as I have seen him anointing the most American of meals—hot dogs, French fries, grilled cheese, and even Kraft mac and cheese—in Dijon mustard.

So it was a great moment last summer when I emerged from the Metro in Paris and looked up to see a veritable Maille museum and shop. The shelves were like those from an estate library, and behind glass, brightly lit, were mustard jars, hand painted in the traditional fashion, selling for no small price. There were flavors ranging from the ubiquitous cassis, tarragon, and honey, to walnut and bleu and clementine. And mustard sputtered from great brass taps.

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Cheap, Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipes, Series
 

The Secret Ingredient (Chamomile) Part I: Seared Sea Scallops with Chamomile Beurre Blanc

RECIPE: Seared Sea Scallops with Chamomile Beurre Blanc
Seared Sea Scallops with Chamomile Beurre Blanc

Seared Sea Scallops with Chamomile Beurre Blanc

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

This month’s secret ingredient—chamomile—is not so secret. I have it in my house every second of every day, and I’d bet you do too. But I began to wonder lately, sipping my late-night cup of chamomile tea, if I had unfairly pigeonholed the dainty dried blossoms into a boring, single-task existence. In business school, we learn that it can be beneficial to a company to shape tasks around an individual’s talents, rather than vice versa, and while chamomile was highly efficient at calming my stomach and my nerves after a stressful day, I wondered what else it could get up to. After all, I had just seen a bunch of them on sale at the florist, little daisy-like buds that recalled summer hillsides, and I couldn’t believe thatthose were chamomile! In my mind, chamomile never existed outside of a tea bag.

Chamomile comes from the Greek meaning “earth-apple,” apparently, according to Wikipedia, because it grows close to the ground and has an apple-like scent. I think such a moniker is unfair—there is nothing in the world that smells or tastes like chamomile. It is delicate, like the flowers I spotted at the florist, but also intensely, almost Victorian-ly virginal and innocent. Not too heady, like some flowers, and certainly not sweet or fruity. It reminds me of primer, a perfect base that grounds everything under and over it, seasonless and timeless and suspended in comfort. (I do, you may have guessed, love the stuff.)

This week I put the whole dried flowers to work in a beurre blanc. Beurre blancs are both velvety and tangy, and I wondered if the chamomile would matte-ify its pervasive acidity. It did, bringing a certain mellowness into a stubborn, old, and tangy sauce. The sweet scallops are the sugar to the chamomile beurre blanc tea, as the sauce pools in ravines of the seared, splintering, cliff-face scallops. It’s fancy, but quite easy, and brings a sort of restaurant tinkering to the home hearth.

Seared Sea Scallops with Chamomile Beurre Blanc
serves 1 to 2

Seared Sea Scallops with Chamomile Beurre BlancIngredients

  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoons dried chamomile flowers
  • 1 tablespoon cream
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and cold, plus 1 tablespoons
  • 4 large sea scallops

Procedure

Begin with the beurre blanc.  In a medium saucepan, place the shallots, vinegar, wine, and chamomile.  Bring to a low simmer, and evaporate the liquid until it is just gone, on a low flame, careful not to let it go so long that the pot burns.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat.  Season the scallops on both sides with salt and pepper.  Sear each scallop on the first side until it is golden brown and then flip over, about 5 to 6 minutes in total, until the scallop is firm, opaque, and just cooked through.

Once the reduction is “dry,” either keep the flame on very low heat, or take the pan off the heat altogether, using the residual heat from the pan to melt the butter.  Whisk in bits of butter a few at a time, whisking continuously, so that as the butter softens, it does not melt, but stays opaque and emulsifies.  Strain the sauce.

Plate the scallops on a bed of beurre blanc.  Garnish with some fronds of chervil and a few dried chamomile flowers.

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Categories: Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient
 

French in a Flash: Chèvre And Greens-Stuffed Shells in Béchamel

RECIPE: Chèvre and Greens Stuffed Shells in Bechamel
Shells in Bechamel

Shells in Bechamel

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

When I first started going to my all-girls school at seven years old, I was confronted with a lot of “new things”—new to me anyway. Uniforms that zipped up the back instead of the front (as my old ones had done), calling our teachers Mrs. So-And-So and washing our hands before lunch (neither was enforced at my previous and less prestigious education institution), and mandatory recorder lessons. So much for a little girl to take in! But one thing twinkled like a diamond in the rough: manicotti.

Pasta lover though I was—and I was—I had never encountered the stuffed variety. Lunch at that school was always a sit-down affair, full of roast chickens and rice pilaf and buttered green beans. But every so often was manicotti day, and I would revel in the little tubes, tunnels under a Hudson River of tomato sauce, stuffed with ricotta that burst with enthusiasm out each end without any prodding or encouragement. One nudge from my fork and the whole thing collapsed, white gushing into red, and I would use the side of my fork as a spoon and raise the mashed mess into my mouth. Amid that new world, it was a mouthful of comfort. Every after, I was hooked: shells, tubes, ravioli, tortellini. They are all sunshine on a snowy day.

This recipe takes my old Italian favorite and stuffs it with French flavors. Undercooked pasta shells are stuffed with a light mixture of ricotta, goat cheese, green vegetables, mint, and tarragon. The resulting flavor is almost summery, but is then enveloped in a creamy, wintry béchamel, and gratin-ed in a crust of goat cheese until bubbly and golden. It serves a crowd, and imparts drizzly day comfort.

Chèvre and Greens Stuffed Shells in Bechamel

Shells in BechamelIngredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 extra large shallot, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, finely cubed (brunoise)
  • 2 cup broccoli florets, chopped up finely
  • 1 10-ounce box frozen spinach, thawed, and wrung out of all excess liquid
  • 1/2 cup thawed frozen peas
  • 50 jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 tablesppon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, plus 4 ounces
  • 2 stems mint, leaves chopped
  • 1 stem tarragon, leaves chopped
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.  Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta, and salt it.  Butter two 9”x13” baking dishes.
  2. Cook the jumbo pasta shells in the boiling water until just under al dente.  Drizzle a large baking sheet with oil, and spread the shells out on it to allow them to become cool enough to handle.
  3. In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil and the butter, and add the shallot, garlic, zucchini, broccoli, and spinach.  Season, and cook until fragrant and soft—about 5 to 7 minutes.  Spoon into a bowl to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, mix the ricotta, 4 ounces of chevre, the egg yolk, the mint and tarragon, and the peas in a large bowl.  When the vegetable mixture has slightly cooled, add it to the cheese mixture, and mix to combine.
  5. Make the béchamel by melting the butter in a saucepot.  Whisk in the flour, and allow to cook over medium heat—watching with a close eye—for about 3 or 4 minutes, until the mixture smells a bit like cookies baking in the oven.  Whisk in the cold milk, and then the cold cream.  This won’t thicken as much as a traditional béchamel, so just whisk as you heat it through.  Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.
  6. Stuff the shells with the cheese mixture, and place seam-side-down in the butter baking dishes.  Pour half the béchamel over each baking dish.  Top with more crumbled chevre, and parmesan.
  7. Bake the shells covered for 30 minutes at 375 degrees F.  Then raise the heat to 400, and bake another 30 minutes uncovered.
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French in a Flash: Niçoise Chickpea Chips

RECIPE: Niçoise Chickpea Chips

Niçoise Chickpea Chips

Niçoise Chickpea Chips

I wrote in this week’s column that to me, Nice is France’s Venice, and if you’ve been to either, you’ll be able to imagine the food position of the other. A lonely traveler, upon entering either city, you immediately notice difference. In Venice, it’s the canals, and the arched-cat-back bridges. In Nice, it’s the feel of walking off the beach and into a fortress, with medievally serpentine streets and the feeling of grey stone against the blue, blue sky. And then there’s the food. In Venice, it’s a handful of things you rarely see again miles from the canals: cuttlefish, squid ink, chilies, saffron. And in Nice, the heart of the Riviera, in that city fortress is a bastion of dishes you won’t find outside the castle walls: socca, chickpea flour pancakes, zucchini flower beignets, pissaladière, legumes farcies. My time in Nice was one of the fullest times of my life, because I stopped nearly everywhere for something I absolutely HAD to try.

Chick Pea Chip Ingredients

Chickpea Chip Ingredients

For the Oscars on Sunday, I am making these Niçoise Chickpea Chips (see my column French in a Flash at Serious Eats for the full recipe and article, as always). They are easier to make than homemade potato chips, but more unique. Think of them as haute couture snacks on your red carpet table. Except, all that is involved is gently crisping canned chickpeas in hot olive oil, and then tossing them with lemon zest and fleur de sel. To me, though they are certainly not traditionally Niçoise, they evoke all the flavors of the city: the chickpeas, the salty sea air, the deep fry that seems to come on everything, the lemon husks left over from drizzling beignets. Nice memories of Nice. Bon app!

Niçoise Street Food

Zucchini Flower Beignets

Zucchini Flower Beignets

Socca

Socca

Pissaladière

Pissaladière

Niçoise Chickpea Chips
Ingredients
  • Olive oil for frying
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and very well dried
  • 1 teaspoon fleur de sel
  • Zest 1/2 lemon

Procedure

  1. Fill a small saucepot half full with olive oil, and heat over medium heat until it reaches 350°F. Drop the garlic clove into the oil when it is cold, and remove it as it comes to temperature—just to infuse the flavor into the oil.
  2. Fry the chickpeas in batches for about 5 minutes, carefully, as they may splatter. They will go from looking like cooked chickpeas to toasted hazelnuts—smaller, and golden, and crunchy. Drain on a paper towel, and toss with the fleur de sel and lemon zest.
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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Eat, For a Crowd, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian
 

The Secret Ingredient (Pastis) Part III: Pastis and Mint Granita

RECIPE: Pastis and Mint Granita
Pastis and Mint Granita

Pastis and Mint Granita

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

I make granitas constantly. For one, you don’t need an ice cream maker, which I still don’t have. And two, the snowflake texture and melt-in-your-mouth sweet crystals are like a grown-up snow cone and slushy, all combined in one elegant champagne saucer.

This Pastis and Mint Granita is intensely fresh, full of anise and fresh green spearmint—a strong departure from the sweet lemon and strawberry varieties that are more popular. This granita tastes more like fennel than fruit. But food legend in my family has always held that anise, though often sipped as an aperitif, is really a digestive aid—like the little fennel-seed cookies whose crumbs I always leave scattered on the paper-covered tables of generous Italian restaurants.

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French in a Flash: Marseilles-Style Spicy Clams and Mussels

RECIPE: Marseilles-Style Spicy Clams and Mussels
Spicy Marseilles Clams and Mussels

Spicy Marseilles Clams and Mussels

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

I love this seafood stew for being both simple and complicated at once. Few of us can achieve that dichotomy without substantial artifice, but this dish stumbles into it without effort. As my Marseilles cousin said to me when I described the recipe, “These are not the mussels of Marseilles.” Perhaps not in the traditional sense, but I’ve taken the essences of Marseilles that inspire me—the seafood, the pastis, the saffron, the garlic—and bubbled them into a light, spicy dish that is both warming and weightless.

The dish takes, from beginning to end, perhaps twenty minutes. The subterranean perfume of anise wafts up from the subtle, but present, pastis and fennel. The floral saffron and hot chilies add further depth of flavor to what is otherwise a simple pot of seafood. The clams leach their signature briny liquor, and add a sweet emphasis and contrast of texture to the quotidian mussels. It’s a pot of mussels taken to new Provençal heights. And if you want to make this moules frites, I suggest you try it with sweet potato fries and some good crusty bread. Use the shells to spoon the hot broth into your mouth like a suppertime elixir—it’s bright, fresh, and life-giving.

Marseilles-Style Spicy Clams and Mussels
Spicy Marseilles Clams and MusselsIngredients
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 shallots, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 fennel, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup Pastis
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 pound mussels
  • 1 pound little neck clams
  • 1 tablespoon butter, very cold
  • 2 tablespoon fennel fronds, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chervil, chopped

Procedure

  1. In a wide risotto pan, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-low heat and add the shallots, garlic, fennel, and chili flakes. Sauté until translucent, fragrant, and tender—about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes, and sauté another 3 minutes.
 Add the pastis, and reduce.

Add the wine, and reduce.
  3. Add the saffron, the mussels, and the clams, and raise the heat to high. Cover, and steam the seafood until it opens—about 5 minutes. Shake in the cold butter to make the sauce creamy.

Toss in the fennel fronds and chervil and serve immediately.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Eat, Fish, For a Crowd, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series